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As anyone who has recently dabbled in the stock market can attest, knowing when to sell is just as important as knowing when to buy.
This week's Genesis Invitational presents a stacked field on an iconic venue, with eight of the top 10 in the world taking on one of the Tour's more cerebral layouts. The cream tends to rise to the top at Riviera, but inevitably there will be a few prominent names that go a little sideways. After all, even without a traditional water hazard in sight this is still a major-caliber venue where a 75 is never out of reach, even for the best in the game.
So while half the battle is backing the right player, sifting through the data to ascertain which skill set best matches a track that disproportionately favors course history, another key component is finding the right guy to fade. And this week, that just might be Jordan Spieth.
Spieth is coming off back-to-back top-5 finishes, the first time he pulled off two in a row like that in nearly three years. He held a share of the 54-hole lead in Phoenix, then was two clear of the field heading into Sunday at Pebble Beach. There were hiccups in both finales, but overall ample signs of progress.
That improvement is reflected in his price. Two weeks ago he started the week as a +15000 longshot at TPC Scottsdale according to oddsmakers at PointsBet Sportsbook. This week, on a more difficult course against a stronger field, he's sitting at +3300. The hype train has officially left the station on a player with plenty of promise but one who is still searching for consistency, both round-to-round and week-to-week. That variance has been on full display at Riv, where Spieth has a pair of top-10 finishes. But he has also failed to crack the top 50 each of the last two years and has put up some jarring scores: an opening 79 in 2016 when he was near his peak, plus final-round tallies of 76 and 81 the last two years.
It means that there could be a window this week to take a more stable option, and I'm doing just that in backing defending champ Adam Scott (-143) in a tournament head-to-head with Spieth. Scott thrives on this venue, with its kikuyu grass reminiscent of the type he grew up playing in Australia, and he has finished T-17 or better in six of his last seven appearances, highlighted by a two-shot win a year ago. Scott arguably has the higher ceiling, and coming off a T-10 finish of his own at Torrey Pines he certainly feels like he has the higher floor among the two former major champions.
Here are two other plays I like this week, with odds via PointsBet:
Brooks Koepka (+275) to miss the cut: We all saw how quickly Koepka bounced back in Phoenix, following three straight missed cuts with a stirring victory. But like Spieth, he might be in line for some regression this week on a course that has never particularly fit his eye. Koepka missed the cut here in 2017 then finished T-43 in his return last year, mixing two good rounds with two poor ones. The limited, 120-man field means making the weekend is easier than it would be against a full field, but this price is still tempting for a player who didn't miss by much at Torrey Pines and Palm Springs but still missed the cut at both. Koepka is outside the top 60 in every significant Strokes Gained category in terms of Riviera performance, and it's a place that will afford him far less margin for error for the occasional foul ball than did TPC Scottsdale.
Bryson DeChambeau (+152) in Round 1 3-ball: I am somewhat bullish this week on DeChambeau, who has gotten progressively better with each trip to Riviera and tied for fifth a year ago while employing the bomb-and-gouge style of play that has become his calling card. Riviera typically favors players who can launch it off the tee and access different angles of attack than most of the field, and the old-school layout with penal rough and scant penalty areas is actually somewhat reminiscent of Winged Foot where he won the U.S. Open in September. Instead of taking him at +100 to beat Rory McIlroy for the week, I'll opt for a better price on an opening-round play in a 3-ball that includes McIlroy and Cameron Champ. Champ has missed the cut in all three prior appearances and has been over par in each of his six competitive rounds here, so this will likely boil down to the two major champs in the group. Both have played well here recently, but I'll take better than a 3/2 return in a situation where the two likely front-runners seem to be on even footing.
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